Dos and Don’ts: 10 Tips Before a Marathon
By Ruben Sança
With 10 days to go before a marathon, you’ve certainly put in lots and lots of miles and many long hours of running. Your body has been put through a series of physical and mental tests and you think you’ve conquered it all. Your Facebook friends are beginning to post their race numbers and your co-workers are wondering how your preparation is going. As the marathon buzz starts to peak, you can’t help but feel excited about your upcoming race. However, you still have 10 full days before race day and each day seems like a week. There is still some snow on the ground, and the pre-race jitters are starting to kick in. You’re nervous. The hard-working-you wants to keep on plugging and squeezing in as much training as you can, but the smart-working-you wants to play it safe and get to the starting fresh. Here are 10 tips that will help you best feel prepared and ready on race day:
1. Eat Well and Taper – but don’t over eat. Carbo-loading is great, but too much carbs before race day will only make you feel bloated and could cause some significant delay in your race time. You should eat normal the last few days leading up to your race. As you are tapering, your body is processing food different – at a much slower rate. Therefore, it’s important to keep in check the balance between calorie burning and calorie intake. Try to avoid any unusual food. If you’re never had spicy hot wings, don’t try them leading up to your race!
2. Maintenance and Rest Sessions – Don’t try to make up for any missed workouts. Any hard workouts within the last few before a marathon will only be counter-productive to your tapering cycle. As you start to cut down on your running sessions, you can add some light chiropractic adjustments or massage days to fill in off days.
3. Sleep and Hydration – Start to adjust to your race time. Most marathons are very early in the morning. Each day, try to get to bed 15 minutes earlier and don’t wait until the last day to make a sudden change. You will be awake for hours if you do that the night before the race! Same with hydration. Hydration is important not just the night before the race. Drink water before and after sleep as water helps speed up your metabolism.
4. Toenails and Race Shoes – Avoid trying those brand new pair of shoes that your significant other gifted you for your race day. First off, not all shoes are the same. They vary in support level, inside and outside cushioning etc. Trim your toenails to avoid any rubbing in between your toes that could lead to bleeding on your race day. To play it safe, wear the same shoes you’ve been wearing on your marathon workouts.
5. Clothing and Chaffing – Avoid that brand new uniform you just bought at the Expo. Trying new clothes can lead to chaffing and discomfort if you haven’t worn them before. It’s recommended that you use some anti-chaffing cream as a preventative measure for chaffing in the arms, legs etc. Vaseline alone just won’t do the job. Try something more robust, such as ChafeX.
6. Short and Sweet Miles – You feel tempted to run long and keep training hard so that you don’t de-train by resting too much. There’s a fine line between training and over training. The safest way to prevent any lingering injury in the last days before your marathon is to go short and sweet. Run less miles and slower than usual. If you need to, split your runs to allow you to recover.
7. Avoid Outside Distractions – The Expo is fun but it can take a lot out of you. It will drain you if you spend way too much time there. Get your number, take a few photos, buying some merchandise, then leave! In addition, other work or family related events can lead to significant mental stress that can impact you on race day. Don’t plan that family reunion and don’t close on the new house on race weekend. Everyone will understand as long as you make them aware and part of your race.
8. Know the Course and Weather – Knowing where the giant hill is on the course can make you feel at peace. Not only that, but it will also allow you to better pace your self. Most course elevations can now be found online via Strava or MapMyRun. Check out a full review of Strava from The Babble Out. Weather can also impact your racing mood and pace if you’re not prepared. Weatherground has very reliable forecasting.
9. Gels and Drinks – It is highly recommended that you take some carbohydrate gels and stay well hydrated during a marathon. The average runner burns over 3,000 calories during a marathon. Because a person can’t possibly eat that much and run immediately after, it is recommended that you either carry or plan some stations along the course. Try natural hydration and gel packets that wont spike up your blood sugar. UnTapped fuel and SOS hydration packets are great examples, but be sure to try them in training before.
10. Stay the Course and Plan – Look back on your training and be realistic about what your goals are before the race. If you’re planning on running 8-minute miles, try to be patient in the early miles of the race even if it feels too easy. It’s important to stick to your race plan as much as possible in the first half of the race so you can conserve energy for the second half. It is indeed a marathon and not a sprint.
Disclaimer: There are so many variables on race day. Some are controllable and some are not. It is important for you to be able to distinguish what you can and cannot control. Not everything works for everyone and that is why preparation and testing during your training is key. Whether your goal is to just finish the race or run a new personal best, visualizing the race can lead to increasing your chances at achieving your performance and process goals. Picture yourself not only smiling across that finish line, but also conquering that monster hill. Remember: don’t expect the marathon to be easy, instead, trust that your fitness is strong enough to be able handle it.